Match report from Simon Dobey as UCD secure a place in the play-off final against Waterford with a 2-0 win over Bray
UCD AFC have secured a promotion playoff against Waterford, following a Wonderful Whelan strike that set UCD on their way to a 2-0 win over Bray Wanderers at Dalymount Park tonight. Paul Doyle put the icing on the cake with a deft finish in the 87th minute.
It was a game beset by familiarity in the build up. Former Bray Wanderers teammates Andy Meyler and Gary Cronin dictating terms from the dugouts of UCD and Bray respectively. The game even saw two brothers facing off on opposing teams, Sam Verdon for Bray and Adam Verdon for UCD who both made appearances from the bench. Despite the cordiality between the squads the game was played in a tenacious spirit with five yellow cards.
The first half was, decidedly, evenly matched. However, UCD had the better of the chances and certainly dominated the early stages. A Whelan nutmeg in midfield as he ran away from goal, harried by three Seagulls was an early warning sign to how the students' attack can create space from nothing. However, the students also defended resolutely which attracted large cheers from the unusually large cohort of fans.
UCD had the first chance of the match. Dara Keane thundered towards the seagulls net before being taken down just outside the box. The foul resulted in a captain Jack Keaney free kick, which swirled over the bar.
Brain Maher’s glamorous footwork caught the attention of the country this week when he togged out for the Ireland U21’s and tonight was no different. A precise long ball from Maher set Bray away down the left hand side, the resulting cross was headed clear by Todd.
Wanderers looked to stem UCD’s electric attack. Particularly, Liam Kerrigan was targeted by Craven who fouled the students winger at least four times in the opening half. It was Kerrigan who had UCD’s first shot from open play, some typically elusive play from him created the space before the shot was blazed over the bar.
Bray, however, began to grow into the tie. A bursting run from high flying seagulls wingback Dylan Barnett meant he almost latched onto a searching Quinn ball. The cross was sliced but it was a clear symbol of intent.
A quickly taken goal kick caught the students napping. The bouncing ball was nearly gathered by Kavanagh who hit the deck under a challenge from Osam. Bray appealed for a penalty but one was not forthcoming. Needless to say that ruffled a few feathers in the Seagulls end of the Jodi.
Bray’s greatest threat in the first half came from corners. On several occasions balls were whipped into great positions but no man in green and white was there to meet them.
It was UCD who had the best chance of the first half. Dara Keane was on the end of a long free kick, which Kerrigan won smartly. Keane then cut the ball back into the path of Whelan who’s strike ricocheted off the left hand up-right. The first half finished scoreless.
The second half began in an entirely different fashion. Bray could have been awarded a free kick on the edge of the box when Gallagher tripped the rampaging Graydon but the referee waved play on.
Mahers magnificent feet were again on display. This time to save a low driven shot from Whelan who went one on one with the keeper after former boh’s man Barry misjudged the flight of a long ball.
Bray began to dial up the pressure on the students who had looked nervy since the restart. Firstly a long free kick was fumbled by Healy after he was clattered by his own man. The ball fell to Joe Doyle who’s shot was blocked.
The students urged referee, Oliver Moran, to go to the book following a challenge on Whelan as he threatened. Oliver Moran did not oblige but he did award UCD a free kick 30 yards from goal. Up step Colm Whelan. Whelan hit a knuckleball free kick that seemed to hang in the air, shifting left and right. The ball rifled past Maher in the Seagulls net who was rooted to his spot. UCD 1 Bray 0.
Colm Whelan showed just how phenomenal his talent is just when it mattered. In the 71st minute he took a ball down in his chest before kneeing it and sending it looping over Dylan Barnett. Whelan then juggled the ball as UCD broke. The passage ended with Jovic backpedaling to cut out a Dara Keane cut back.
Bray looked bereft of ideas in the closing stages, the Whelan goal seemed to have taken the wind out of the sails of the seagulls. However they weren’t done just yet. Sam Verdon turned Harvey O’Brien to put Bray in a dangerous attacking position. The ball fell to former UCD man Richie O’Farrell who struck the ball on the half volley and narrowly wide.
Paul Doyle sealed the victory for UCD in the 87th minute. Whelan this time finding Doyle with a perfectly weighted chip over the Bray backline.
The win sees UCD into the promotion playoff where they will face Waterford. A repeat of this years cup quarter final which UCD lost 3-2 in the final minute of play. However, a win tonight keeps premier division football on the cards next season. Things are looking bright around Belfield
Lorcan Healy; Michael Gallagher, Harvey O’Brien, Sam Todd, Evan Osam; Jack Keaney (c) , Paul Doyle, Sean Brennan, Dara Keane; Liam Kerrigan, Colm Whelan.
Substitutes: Carl Williams, Luke Boore, Mark Dignam, Ciaran Brehan, Adam Lennon, Eoin Farrell, Adam Verdon, Lennon Gill, Evan Caffrey:
Manager: Andy Meyler.
Bray Wanderers A.F.C
Brian Maher; Dylan Barnett, Andrew Quinn, Aaron Barry, Mark Byrne; Darren Craven, Ryan Graydon, Brandon Kavanagh; Richie O’Farrell, Joe Doyle, Luka Jovic.
Substitutes: Kian Clarke, Daniel Jones, Sean Callan, Darragh Lynch, Ryan Bowden, Steven Kinsella, Sam Hayden, Sam Verdon, Jack Ross:
Manager: Gary Cronin:
Referee: Oliver Moran. Assistants: Chris Campbell & Eoin Harte.
Fourth Official: Alan Patchell.
Mark Clifford and Callum Thompson suspended